Education and Training; Preparing People for What Happens Next

The world continues to spin wildly around us. In spite of all the turmoil leaders can do things now to set their people and organizations up for success when things begin to settle down and return to normal. Begin by identifying facts and assumptions. Use that analysis to identify possible courses of action in the future. Figure out what training and education are required so those you lead will be ready to jump when the light turns green. Using this uncertain time to train and educate people now sharpens your organization’s edge.

In periods of chaos, leaders use education and training to teach their people to find ways to work in the new normal. Photo by Ann H on

Let’s start by distinguishing between training and education.  Training are lessons taught to people with the intention of creating skills and behaviors that allow them to change. For example, teaching someone how to operate a machine is training because they develop the skills to make the machine do things. Teaching a person about the types of materials required to make the machine operate well, the mechanics the allow the machine to work, the theory of the machine’s operation, and such other information is education. Education teaches people information expanding their knowledge. That knowledge alone does not develop the skills required to execute actions. For instance, one can read about how to perform an appendectomy, but few of us really want the doctor that has only read about removing an appendix to perform such surgery on us. We want to know the doctor conducted some sort of training to develop skills before he cuts into us. So education is about imparting knowledge. Training develops skills through hands-on practice. Both are required to develop quality workers.

Let’s carry the medical example further. Doctors spend years gaining knowledge about anatomy before they every cut into their first cadaver. They learn where organs are, how muscles work, why certain genetic mutations cause cancer, and a host of other lessons.  It is important for the doctor to know anatomy as she seeks out the appendix in the abdominal cavity. Her knowledge of how skin grows, which direction the abdominal muscles run, and what organs are between the belly and appendix allow the surgeon to locate the problem, remove it, and return the body to a status that encourages healing.

In all areas of life education is important. Without certain knowledge one cannot complete tasks easily.  However, if one wants to become a surgeon one does not study auto mechanics.  Understanding how a fuel injector works does not provide the doctor with the required knowledge to execute surgery.  Medical students need doctors to teach them such things just like a mechanic needs another mechanic to teach him the principals of the internal combustion engine. Both jobs require specialized knowledge. It is important to ensure you have the right people educating your people in order for them to learn the right lessons.

Creating a quality training and education program for your organization requires leaders to do some work ahead of time. You need to identify the skills, knowledge, and attributes you expect people to know at the end of the training. Do this by complete a simple job analysis. Compare what is happening now with the way the organization what things to happen.  Develop learning objectives using the Task or Knowledge, Conditions, and Standards model. Develop a big learning objective that is supported by enabling learning objectives, little learning goals that make the big task easier to accomplish.

Using a template, like a stencil, helps create consistent learning objectives. From Cropped by author.

Creating a learning objective is not as daunting as it seems. In the Task or Knowledge statement a simple single sentence stating what skill or knowledge you expect the student to have when the instruction is complete.  Continuing the medical example above, a Tasks or Knowledge Statement for conducting an appendectomy might look like this:

“Upon completion of this block of instruction the student will be able to successfully remove an appendix from a person following proper procedures to prevent death, infection, or other complications.”

In fact, creating the Task Statement is the easiest part. What follows is harder, developing the steps required to complete the task. I cannot begin to offer the steps required to remove a person’s appendix given the extent of my medical training, advanced first aid! However, I am sure that there are steps in a text book somewhere detailing the steps a young intern follows to complete this task. A common error when writing task steps is the authors assume the reader knows about implied tasks. 

Recently I was conducting an inspection before a movement of vehicles from one location to another. A new leader was assigned to lead the convoy. In his mind it was a straight forward task that simply required the other vehicles to follow him. I asked the leader to rehearse the briefing he was giving before their scheduled departure time. He could not because he did not know briefing drivers was a requirement as a convoy leader. There were a long series of implied tasks he did not know about because it was the first time he had led a convoy. We worked together to ensure he and the drivers were clear on what was going to happen and developed a briefing as well as a number of items to check before departure.  The senior leader who tasked this rookie to lead a convoy assumed it was something this person received in training and knew how to do the task. The company had written procedures about moving serials of vehicles. The senior leader reasoned everyone knows how to do it. Now the new leader knows where to find the written information and will do better in the future because of a little bit of training and education.

Even leaders need to learn.Without education and training, leaders will find they communicate ineffectively and influence poorly. Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on

Events seem out of control right now. At some point a sense of normalcy will return.  Even though many organizations are not able to operate the way the usually do does not mean you should do nothing. Smart leaders are using this time to analyze what the future holds, identify opportunities, the skills and other resources to take advantage of those opportunities, and training their people to be ready to take action when those opportunities present themselves. Training does not have to be a big wiz-bang production. Leaders can use simple techniques to educate and train their people. What they need is a clear idea about what tasks they what the others to learn, the steps required to complete those tasks, and an understanding about what the completed task looks like. Know the difference between training and education and how to use them together to change behaviors. Some of your competition has already started. Get ahead of those who have not and develop your people during these uncertain times. In the end, you will benefit from your effort.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

For more on developing learning goals click here: